The occasional need for silence in business growth
Updated: Aug 19
Yesterday, I went for a walk at a local National Trust park ahead of ‘battening down the hatches’ to sit out Storm Dennis.
On the way there, I was exchanging Facebook messages with a fellow female entrepreneur about online abuse in general and some dirty tactics that are playing out in our industry right now and for the first time ever, I found myself articulating something that is a genuine truth for me:
“I don’t pay much attention to what the competition is up to these days. I don't get involved. I’m more interested in doing my own thing, in doing things differently.”
From someone that is a massive advocate of market research and developing business growth strategies based on the realities of market dynamics, that was an unexpected statement. Unexpected even for me and I was the one that wrote it!
As our car pulled into the National Trust park entrance, I pondered the intention and meaning behind what I had just said.
Yes, I was encouraging her to focus on the truly great work she does and to try and ignore the mud being hurled in her direction (definitely not easy), but I was also reminding myself not to go back to the days of being so hypersensitive and reactive to environmental and competitor factors that I made little to zero progress in my business.
On arrival at the park, my walking companion set about sorting our entrance fee and enquiring about National Trust membership, so I decided to look around the gift shop.
The minute I walked in, a little blue book (sat amongst hundreds of books) caught my eye. It was baby blue in colour and slightly smaller than the others and it had an oversized title embossed in shiny silver: Silence in the Age of Noise.
From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to have it. That I had to read it. That it was some sort of synchronistic signpost following on from the conversation I had just had and some of the thoughts circling around my head in recent months.
The only slight challenge was that I didn’t have my purse with me, so I decided to look it up on Amazon later and instead, bore my companion with thoughts and opinions on the incessant noise (and toxicity) making its way across marketing channels right now, as well as the impact that has on business growth.
Once the walk was complete, I headed back to the car whilst they went to the toilet (aka back to the gift shop) and returned a few minutes behind me with THE baby blue book: “Read the book, you need to read the book!” :-)
So, I did. Yesterday afternoon, I curled up in front of the fire whilst Storm Dennis did its thing and read, Silence in the Age of Noise from front cover to back in a couple of hours.
I learnt the book was written by a Norwegian explorer, Erling Kagge and that it was in fact, an International Bestseller.
More importantly though, I read sentences and quotes and facts that consolidated and confirmed my own thinking about noise in relation to business, marketing and digital channels right now and I wanted to share the most powerful ones with you here, along with what I made them mean.
1. Shutting out the world from time to time is not about turning your back on your surroundings. It is about seeing the world more clearly.
Talking about his fifty-day expedition walking solo across Antarctica, Kagge writes: “The quieter I became, the more I heard.”
Referring to text written by the mystic, Rumi, Kagge writes: “Now I shall be silent and let the silence divide that which is true from that which lies.”
Shutting out the incessant noise that exists on communication channels and creating time and space to process the information you are consuming is perhaps the only way to fully understand what it means for you and what, if anything, you should do with that information.
It is easy to get caught up in the moment. It is easy to give people and things more power than they actually have.
2. Silence is the birthplace of innovation
“When I look back on my time as a publisher, the only unusual thing I have done, was stand uninterrupted at the kitchen sink and raise a few questions about sanctioned truths”, Kagge writes.
“Having gone completely deaf, Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony using the sounds existing solely within his head.”
The fact of the matter is, what comes to you externally has already been told. That which is unique is within you.
If you spend an unhealthy amount of time in the ‘external’ world, you are in danger of drifting with the current and market leaders, innovators and great communicators do not drift with currents.
3. Chatter and noise can easily become distractions and defence mechanisms
“I share, therefore I am”, Nir Eyal wrote in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.
“According to a much-referenced study, we humans are worse at concentrating than a goldfish. Humans today lose their concentration after eight seconds. In the year 2000, it was twelve seconds”, Kage writes
Some marketers, business owners and experts get a good response when they post on social media, others sit waiting for anyone to care. The more unpredictable that interaction is, the more they become addicted.
Marketers have adopted addiction as a commercial strategy.
And as consumers of content, the more we are inundated, the more we wish to be distracted. The more we become entangled in the dopamine loop. The more we distract ourselves from the thoughts and conversations we don’t want to have but need to have in order to be healthy human beings.
4. When it comes to content creation, quality beats quantity every single time
“It’s wise to introduce a pause before and after the crux [of something we are communicating]. Our brains prefer contrasts. They become attentive whenever the soundscape changes and doze off when it remains monotone”, Kage writes.
When it comes to content marketing for yourself or your business, if you believe that automated, pre-scheduled and non-differentiated churn is helping you to grow your business, you are sadly mistaken.
Monotony kills engagement. Volume kills engagement. Poor quality content kills engagement. Not having an actual connection with your audience, kills engagement.
5. Digital channels give us all a false sense of power and importance
“Our opinions, our struggles, our sufferings are not so important and unique, when all is said and done,” writes polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, when asked about things he came to understand on a dark night during his expeditions.
We think they are though, right? We think that what we have to say is more important than anyone else? We assume people care?
We also think we have a right to be Judge and jury for people and circumstances we know very little about. We think it’s okay to express our dislike and disdain freely.
Why? Because digital channels allow us to play those roles unchecked and at what feels like the speed of light.
There is no doubt that we are living in the age of noise.
But what if we chose not to contribute MORE noise? What if we paused and thought more? What if we followed our own path? What if we committed to only contributing genuine value and kindness?
What if appropriately used silence is in fact the most powerful tool we possess as business owners and marketers?